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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Spiritually Sinking Via Debt

Hat Tip: A Reader of This Blog
Below is the a Yated article, written by R. Avroham Birnbaum in the August 31 edition of the Yated. It has prompted numerous responses, many of which I hope to post. The article makes many important points, but fails to even acknowledge the big white elephant in the room: tuition, which is on of the driving factors of debt in the frum community. Nevertheless, this the points in this article about the nature of debt, living beyond one's means, etc, ring true. My comments are in orange.

Dying to Borrow
by Avrohom Birnbaum

It was just a casual conversation with an old friend. Commenting on the fact that I could not believe that Rosh Hashanah and the Yomim Noraim were around the corner, I wistfully recalled the spiritually uplifting, intense Elul that we experienced in yeshiva. Despite what Rav Yisroel Salanter used to say, that “The whole year should be like Elul, but Elul is still Elul,” no place can rival a yeshiva during the month of Elul. The days of Elul in a yeshiva affords one a special closeness to Hashem and an intense ruchniyusdike experience.
Looking at me with a pained expression, my friend exclaimed, “Elul in yeshiva? I wish I could have Elul anywhere! I can’t even think about the upcoming Rosh Hashanah. I can’t begin to contemplate spiritually preparing myself for the impending Yom Hadin, because my chovos, my debts, simply do not give me respite.”

“Debts?” I asked. “What debts?”
My friend then proceeded to relate that he owed what to me was an astronomic sum to credit card companies. “I have no yishuv hadaas and I get depressed simply thinking about how I will ever repay my debts and leave behind this spiraling black hole of debt,” he said. “The second I awake, I think about my balances and how impossible it will be for me to earn enough to pay them off. It is terribly depressing to wake up with such heavy, unsolvable issues weighing on one’s heart, every morning. And you wonder why I have no emotional energy left to think about Rosh Hashana, Yom Hadin, Yemei harachamim v’haratzon and teshuva?!” [Many young people are told not to worry about money, Hashem helps, and when things get too tough, and switching gears is extremely difficult. I have heard plenty of Rabbonim talk about the challenge of wealth, yet little is said about the challenges of debt including the spiritual erosion that can happen when a family is overextended. In addition, I've attended shiurim on giving tzedakah, yet I have never seen a shiur advertised that addresses the halachic question and practical questions about who/what gets paid first when the cash just isn't there].

We sat down together and tried to plan a strategy to somewhat alleviate the crushing burden. It soon became clear that every month, he was paying the minimum balance or a bit more on his credit card just to keep the creditors at bay, but meanwhile, the interest was making it impossible for him to emerge from his perpetual state of debt. [It is great to have well meaning people sit down and coach those in a dire prediciment. However, is there a frum credit counseling agency? It seems like this is a void that needs to be filled. . . and fast! I often hear commercials for Christian agencies that specialize in credit counseling. I wish I had the know how to start a frum credit counseling agency].

This particular individual was making enough money to cover his monthly expenses, sometimes even earning a surplus which he paid to the credit card company in an attempt to make a dent in the balance. Nevertheless, he was simply unable to procure sufficient funds to repay the thousands and thousands of dollars of debt that had amassed over the years. [Please read my previous post on getting out of small amounts of debt quick. Once debt is no longer controllable, a complete overhaul and/or bankruptcy is needed. The new bankruptcy laws could very possibly preclude a Yeshiva Education].

I asked him why he does not borrow from interest-free gemachs to pay off his balances and then make a payment plan with the gemach. “It may take time, but eventually you might even be debt free,” I said. My friend replied, “The gemachs are a pain. They only lend you a certain amount and you must get co-signers. The whole thing is so embarrassing.” [Interest free loans can help, but a financial overhaul an absolute must if someone remain debt free].
I convinced him that perpetual debt was a bigger “pain”. Being enticed by the relative ease of plastic was a recipe for disaster, debt, depression and illness. “You are in the throes of that illness already,” I continued. Indeed, the increased reliance on credit cards as a form of taking
long-term loans is a very troubling development.

Jews have reached an amzing level of affluence, residing in the benevolent golus in which we live. This affluence has enabled Yiddishkeit to flourish. Beautiful mosdos haTorah have been built and are sustained, and post-marriage kollel learning has become a norm. [I don't expect the Yated to draw the connection between kollel learning as a norm and the reliance on credit, home equity loans, etc. But, it doesn't take a financial expert to draw the connection].

Simultaneously, affluence and the accompanying lifestyle have also exposed our communities to a culture where wealth has become a status symbol. The house in which one lives, the car one drives, the chasuna one makes for his children, even the amount of support one gives to his married children, have all become wealth barometers that engender envy.

Many less than-affluent people seek to show that they also belong to this elite club, putting pressure on themselves to build status symbol houses and make status symbol weddings, etc. The massive mortgages, the constant pursuit of money, combined with the increased work load and work hours, wreak havoc on families. Parents are so busy trying to earn money that, inevitably, their children and shalom bayis are neglected. [It is shocking that tuition was not mentioned].

One of the most troubling developments over the past several years is the increased reliance on credit cards by segments of our tzibbur. According to prominent askonim, in both America and Israel, the number of families in our communities who live on plastic and revolve large sums of money from one credit card to another has reached dangerous proportions. [!]

Chazal tell us that paying interest is like getting bitten by a snake. The snake bite is tiny, but its venom slowly envelopes the entire body, eventually killing the person. When a person starts leaving a balance, even a small balance, on a credit card, he may soon be doomed to a life of constant debt, bankruptcy and, challila, geneiva. [Emphasis added].

Plastic gives a false sense of security, practically empowering a person to buy something without knowing how he will pay for it. It allows one to pretend that he is also one of the affluent, even though he is not.

Fiscal responsibility is not just a good policy; it is an insurance that one will not be overwhelmed by the crushing burden of massive debts, that one will not sink into depression when he sees no way out or that one will not ultimately stoop to geneiva to try to extricate oneself from a spiral
of debt.

Rebbetzin Zlata Ginsburg, the daughter of the famed Mirrer and Ponevezher mashgiach, Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, was widowed at a young age when her husband, the Mirrer rosh Yeshiva, Rav Ephraim Mordechai Ginsburg was niftar at a young age. She was left with five orphans. This was in 1960, before the times when massive collections were made for widows and orphans. When they stood up from shiva, she had seven dollars and fifty cents in the

She single-handedly served as father and mother to her children, while simultaneously serving as the family’s breadwinner. She raised them l’shem ulitiferes and merited to see her children become great talmidei chachomim, prominent roshei yeshiva and marbitzei Torah. I once asked her, “How did you manage? How did you support your children and eventually marry them off, all alone, without any help?” She answered with a simplicity that made a lifelong impression on me: “I never spent a penny that I didn’t have. If I didn’t have the money, I skimped and simply didn’t buy.”

She would often say that it less than productive to simply ask people who do have means not to overindulge in gashmiyus; rather, it is even more important to focus on teaching those who don’t, not to have kinah, not to envy others. In pre-war Europe, she said, it was unheard of for a non-wealthy person to mimic the lifestyle of the wealthy. People understood their place in society, their means and lived accordingly. [I'm not sure it is really fair to compare America and Israel. Being frum in America means putting your children in private school, which among the general public, is basically reserved for those with wealth, or is something parents do for a short time. Nearly every one of us has areas that we can cut, but there are also areas that are near impossible to cut. For example, in nearly every community I've lived in, there is no choice but to have a car(s). You can't send young children alone on a bus and the schools are miles outside of the kehillah]. In America, she said, everyone has to be equal. There are ‘equal rights’ and therefore, if people who can afford luxuries indulge by making ostentatious weddings, building large houses or buying fancy cars and expensive clothing, it seems that everyone thinks these luxuries should become the new standard for all segments of society. [In the Jewish community, frum and otherwise, this seems the case, especially the weddings. But I'm not willing to pin this as an "American" thing. My (non-Jewish) friends from high school made plenty of backyard weddings or just headed to the courthouse. A hotel wedding was far more rare. There was plenty of variety in how people spent their summers, put on weddings, etc. There is plenty of variety in America, but it is rarely seen in the frum community].

Parents put themselves into debt buying clothing for their children, because the child is embarrassed to be dressed in a “shmatta” if a classmate is bedecked in a fancy, name-brand outfit or suit. [I would pin the embarrassment as much on the parent as the child. When we are in certain communities, we see even babies, infants, and preschoolers dressed in dry clean designer European clothing. Last I checked, preschoolers are happy to make a choice between two to three items the parent has picked out. The "minhag" of matching Yom Tov outfits for all girls, and even coordinating outfits for the boys, is just plain wasteful, and yet nearly every family that is more to the right partakes of this minhag, even those who I know really shouldn't. This is probably one of the most wasteful things seen in the frum community].

The egalitarian nature of American society has many advantages, but it comes with disadvantages too, one of which is its tendency to encourage unmitigated kinah, envy.
If we want to have yishuv hadaas to serve Hashem; if we want to have the necessary time to learn, daven or prepare for Rosh Hashanah; If we want time to spend time educating our children, learning with our children, playing with our children and not agonizing over new money-making schemes to repay ever growing debts, we must learn how not to spend what we don’t have…even if it makes us socially uncomfortable. [Still no mention of tuition].

In the event that a person is absolutely compelled to borrow money, l’maan Hashem, it is not advisable to borrow from credit card companies whose venomous interest can kill. It is preferable to do all one possibly can to borrow from interest-free sources. Kinah kills.
[All and all a good article. But the failure to mention tuition is huge and the "Reader's Write letters reflect that].


Tamiri said...

You know what's depressing? That we need to read this in the paper, that a large segment of the Orthodox Jewish population is so clueless regarding finances.

mlevin said...

1. There is nothing wrong with credit cards and if used properly one can make money off them. For instance there are credit cards that give up to 5% back on all your grocery, gas and pharmacy purchases (upto $300 a year). That's a lot of working hours. Another example, there are many creadit cards which give you certain amount of time from when you sign up, interest free. So, instead of paying this credit card on a timely monthly basis occumulate your money in a bank and collect interest, and if you're really good, you can even put that money in a CD for three to six months and acrue an even larger interest. I know people who did it for a few years and occumulated quite a sum in interest and cash back.

2. Yeshivah tuition. There is nothing wrong with sending your children to public school and paying for private Jewish education in after school hours. Yes, I know it would affect your child's shidduch. But if more parents did it, then it would not be such a tragedy.

I send my children to PS when I(we) could not afford a tuition. The only draw back was the hostility from the yeshivah administrators when I wanted to register my girls into yeshivah. They totally disregarded what my third grader knew (as far as her Jewish education is concerned). Some high schools did not even want to attemp to give a fair interview.

And the lies they tell about PS... no wonder many parents afraid to send their kids to PS. For example sex is rampant in PS, so is crime and disrespect and educational level in Public Schools is waaaaaaay down. But when was the last time they took a look at yeshivah education. Especially boys', who have difficulty passing high school regents.

SephardiLady said...

We have benefitted tremendously from our credit card that funds the kids' 529 college accounts at 2% of our purchases. The money has grown tremendously and it gives me some assurance that college will not be completely out of reach.

Personally, my public school had a lot to offer. More discussion on that later. Would you like to guest post btw?

SephardiLady said...

Guest post would preferable be on re-enrolling your children later.

Jewish Blogmeister said...

I agree with mlevin credit cards when used properly can help you. For most however misuse is almost a guarantee.
I worked for a debt consolidation company so I have first hand knowledge on the subject. Credit card company are in the business of getting people into debt and juicing them for as much interest as possible. The rates that some people pay is the equivalent of loan sharking (29.99%)

BrooklynWolf said...

We have benefitted tremendously from our credit card that funds the kids' 529 college accounts at 2% of our purchases.

What card is that???

The Wolf

SephardiLady said...

Wolf-Unfortunately the card is no longer available, but there is an American Express card through Fidelity Investments that gives 1.5%. I still have its predecessor, a Mastercard that gives 2% to the college fund. We intend to use that card until they rip it out of our hands.

Since I do practice what I preach, we are a credit card company's worst nightmare: we pay in full on time every month. So far over $800 + growth has been funded by the credit card company. :)

UPromise also has a credit card offer, although I'm not sure what percent it gives into the UPromise account. The UPromise account takes less start up funds than the fidelity account: $250 compared to $1000.

the apple said...

My parents have the 2% education credit card too - they LOVE it.

Just out of curiosity, I'm wondering if you (SL, or anyone else) think that getting into debt deeply correlates with getting married young without adequate savings, or with getting married while one is still in school and cannot work a full-time job. I know that it made a huge difference in my parents' marriage that they both had steady incomes and had been saving money for years before they married. At the same time, they married in their 30s, which a) is not seen as a good thing in the frum community and b) frankly, they also wanted to get married younger. That's just the way things worked out.

I once read somewhere (on this blog, maybe?) that good financial planning should be part of chosson/kallah classes. I don't think it's such a bad idea, after reading all these stories!

In terms of myself, a LARGE chunk of money that I acquire goes straight to a mutual funds account that my father set up for me a few years ago. The rest of it goes to a checking account that I can spend from as I see fit, although my parents are always begging me not to spend anything and just to save. I listen ... mostly :P. I'm really lucky that I have parents who encourage me to save and not spend, because they want me to have something to start off with when I graduate college/get married.

mlevin said...

The apple - age and debt have no correlation. immaturity and debt on the other hand... Or lack of education and debt... Or irresponsibility...

SL - not sure about being a guest post. I'm new to blogging world, so not sure what it all entailes.

Anonymous said...

While tuition is obviously a large issue, it is not relevant to this article. The article was about 2 things (1)not using credit cards and (2)not allowing our envy of those people with more to cause us to spend unnecessarily.

Halfnutcase said...

I spent a few years as a child with my mother having to count pennies, not enough money, and not even enough to eat, and honestly it wasn't all that bad. Yes my clothes were hamidowns 3-5 times over, and yes I almost never got anything new and did not get to participate in lots of endeavors, but it really wasn't that bad.

When I finaly get a job I'm going to continue to live like I'm up to my eyes in debt and pay all of the extra cash out to a savings account, and probably home school my kids as long as they're learning (I did fine without homeschool, I walked in to first grade possessing a 5th grade education, or in certain areas much more, YAY FOR THE ENCYCLOPEDIA!), and save up all the rest of the money and just live frugaly.

Once they're old enough that they need to go to college hopefully we'll have so much in the savings account accruing interest that I'll be able to litteraly pay my kids college in cash, (lessee, given that I plan to be a teacher in this district that means that I'll probably be earning about 37 thou to start, and my bet is that I could live off 20 a year for the first 3 years, and thats already 51 thou in the bank earning interest, which at 2.5% (all guesses, but from what I hear thats a safe estimate) is about a thousand a year, and expenses hopefully wont grow that fast if I'm safe about it, and I know that most teachers in the district get raises pretty fast (average pay is 45 thou now) and I hope that my expenses wont rise too fast, but I don't know.

Halfnutcase said...

(2)not allowing our envy of those people with more to cause us to spend unnecessarily.

this does not engender half the debt that tuition expenses do, especialy in a world that discurages college.

Mike S. said...

halfnutcase: I don't mean to burst your bubble but you will have to pay tax on that $37K.

TwinsMommy said...

for us it went something like this.

1) 24 years old. We had $15,000 cash (never had anything since!) and decided to spend $17,000 on our wedding. $2000 in debt, no big deal. Or so we thought. Stupid us. Should have kept the $15,000 ($13,000 or so) and just spent $2000 TOTAL on our wedding.

2) So then, with no money, and a little debt, my "parents" illegally sold stock that they had purchased in my name when I was a minor. It's a class 3 felony to sell the stock under your child's ss# when the child is of age, but whatever.... I had to use credit cards to pay the IRS taxes on capital gains I never saw.

3) We started paying student loans back. All $90,000 of them. In retrospect, graduate school was a VERY bad idea for me. Not such a bad idea for my hubby. Meanwhile credit card offers are deluging the mailbox-- we're offered over $100,000 in credit in less than a decade. OTHER than the $90,000 we already have out in student loans.

4) More tax trouble. Underpaying throughout the year-- $4000 goes on the credit card. Since then I've taken plenty of advanced tax courses and become a bonded, liscenced tax advisor for 4 years. Helpful since later I began my own business and being a sole proprieter with a home office, you need SOME tax knowledge. But I digress.

5) So now, before we were 30, we had $90,000 in student loan debt, and about $10,000 in credit card debt.... I guess that's where it started snowballing to where we are now--- over $200,000 in total debt.

6) Car trouble. Put it on the credit cards.

7) Moved to a less expensive part of the country. Great idea for the long term. For the short term, we stupidly figured we needed furniture. Dining room on credit. Living room on credit. In retrospect maybe we should have lived in a tiny apartment for our first couple of years here rather than renting a nice house, but the nice house is great---- because we then got pregnant with twins. And the nice house's rent is the same as what we paid for the dinky apartment in Los Angeles.

8) Soon, we used credit cards for everyday purchases--- groceries, utility payments, car gas, etc etc. Why? We made plenty of money to pay for groceries and utilities and even for our student loan payments.... but the minimum payments on our credit cards were up to...... $4000 a month. MINIMUM payments. That's the hole we're in now---- we make a reasonable amount of money--- we're a 2 income household, but $4000 of it goes to credit cards every month, so what's left for groceries?

We're making changes now and seeing light at the end of an obnoxiously expensive tunnel. But by the time our debt is much more manageable, our 9 month old twins will be ready for Jewish day school and we'll be on the tuition trail. Fun stuff. So I figure what we are spending on credit card payments now will go towards tuition then, down the road (if my husband doesn't let me homeschool-- he's a teacher and thinks it looks bad for a teacher's children to be homeschooled-- argh). Plus, 4-5 years from now I'll be making more money than I am now which is why I'm in the position I am-- since my husband's salary is pretty inflexible, I decided being self employed would be the way to go and I'm glad I did.

Long story short, I REALLY wish I had taken money management classes in my early 20's rather than learning it all the very hard way and now at 34 am just starting to think about "when are we going to save for retirement"?

SephardiLady said...

SL - not sure about being a guest post. I'm new to blogging world, so not sure what it all entailes.

MLevin-A handful of readers have been kind enough to share and experience or story on my blog. They write it up, email me (see email at top of my blog), and I post it. Then readers can ask questions of the poster or discuss the post. I have had a guest post about virtual schooling, tuition stories, and a post from "The Wolf" on what happened when he lost a credit card.

I'd love to heard about the years where you put your kids into public school and what it was like dealing with the administrators when it was time to go back to Yeshiva/Day School. I think that would be really neat.

SephardiLady said...

While tuition is obviously a large issue, it is not relevant to this article. The article was about 2 things (1)not using credit cards and (2)not allowing our envy of those people with more to cause us to spend unnecessarily.

I personally liked the article, but believe tuition is most certainly relevant.

What does a family do when they bring home $100,000 and their mortgage/tax payment on a modest residence and tuition and day care expenses leave them without enough money to pay for minimal food, utilities, and gas. My educated guess: it gets put on the credit card!

TwinsMommy-Ouch! I still owe you a post. Have you gone to a credit counseling agency?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

SL: In Israel, there's a great chessed organization called "Paamonim" that helps families that have fallen into debt.

Instead of just giving needy people money, they teach people how to manage their money, balance their budget, and repay debt. The only way people are eligible for tzedaka from paamonim is if they follow the strict rules of debt reduction (destroying credit cards, getting rid of non-essential monthly bills, ie, cellphones for everyone, etc.)

Does such an organization exist in the US?

Twinsmommy said...

Yep, we consulted with a credit counseling agency--- we had too much debt to repay to be helped by their plan. They said based on our income and current debt, our debt would have to be much lower to consolidate with them and do a monthly payment through them.

Anonymous said...

eretz yisroel also has another credit help agency called mesila. I hope they get here soon.

Anonymous said...

Tuition Not Relevant???? Pulease! It's entirely relevant to everything. Let's put it in perspective; I spend over a thousand dollars A WEEK for my kids tuition. I literally couldn't burn dollar bills that fast in a fire if I tried. No matter how materialistic I am it is a total order of magnitude. And debt is a byproduct of pressure we are under. And I am yet to see one lecture on the subject in any shul anywhere. The debt problem is totally about tuition not life style. Sorry Rabbaim, you have totally failed us in this area.

Anonymous said...

Yated Neman is a chareidi newspaper

Tuition in Charedi yeshivos is a joke at $1,000 to $6,000 a child -compared to the $15,000-$20,000 we pay at a more modern yeshiva - THAT IS WHY YATED DID NOT DISCUSS TUITION it is much less of an issue in the chareidi world

Economically it makes a huge difference in the modern orthodox community - that is why they have only 2-4 kids and the chareidim have 8-12

SephardiLady said...

Anon 9:12: Sorry, by our nieces' NY Bais Yaakov costs more like $7000 in tuition and that is before the building fund.

And Out of Town the more Right Wing schools can cost just about the same as the modern schools (and you don't necessarily have the same level of service either).

Tuition is a driving factor modern or Chareidi, even if tuition is "only" $6000 AFTER tax dollars.

SephardiLady said...

That should read "but," not "by." I must have switched into Yinglish when thinking about the Yated.

ora said...

mlevin, you said:

"And the lies they tell about PS... no wonder many parents afraid to send their kids to PS. For example sex is rampant in PS, so is crime and disrespect and educational level in Public Schools is waaaaaaay down."

Are you saying rumors of sex, crime, disrespect, drugs, etc, in public school are lies? Because I went to public middle and high school and frankly, "sex, drugs, and crime" sounds pretty accurate to me (of a class of 200, we had one kid die of an overdose, one die in a fight, 167 graduate, and 10 girls with babies by graduation). Yes, there's a lot more than that going on, and most kids are pretty good, but IMO the vast majority of public schools should be avoided. If you are in a really really good school district it might be a bit different, but then you have the other issue of a high morgage and insanely high property tax.

Public elementary school, btw, had no sex or drugs that I can recall, but also had constant fights, almost 30 kids a class, and absolutely no learning. I think I would have had a better educational experience spending 7 hours a day at home alone. Again, it depends on the district.

While I don't recommend public school, I don't recommend 15K a year on tuition either. If I lived in the US, I think I'd live as close to the middle of nowhere as I could get while still keeping some frum Jews around, and would do my best to start my own Jewish school/homeschool (ie, getting together with other parents to hire an avrech as a tutor and teaching reading and math on my own). I know that solution probably wouldn't work for most.

mlevin said...

ora - are you really so naive that you think that those things do not happen in yeshiva's? After graduation when I went to school we found out that one girl was a mother. She had her baby during winter vacation and no one noticed her gone. In my shul one teen committed suicide, later it was revealed that she was on drugs at the time. She was Yeshivah girl, too. Yeshivah world may shelter our children from these things, but it is not full prove. These things do happen, they are just kept secret so people don't hear about it.

I chose Yeshivah for my girls for one reason and one reason only. Jewish education. As a Jewish mother it is my responsibility to educate my children sufficiently enough that they could pass down this same education at least one more generation. How many Yeshivah's capable of accomplishing that goal? I spoke to many young women who had graduated from sheltered BYs and they do not have basic Jewish education. Yes, they know how to daven and keep kosher, but that is all superficial. Do they know why? Do they know history of other Jews keeping kosher? Do they have pride in their Judaism. If (unfortunatly it is most probably when not if) there is a drastic change in our lives such as a world war, and/or new regime similar to communism taking over, how many of our children are armed with enough knowledge to fight it off, remain Jewish and pass it down to the next generation? And how many of them will simply rot as majority of Jews did in Soviet Union.

Halfnutcase said...

I'm seconding what mlevin said.

in my yeshiva (which was originaly a BT highschool yeshiva but over a decade ago became more of an at risk yeshiva) there was an incident were two frum bais yaakov girls willingly came with some of the students in to the dorm with the express purpose of, between the two of them, sleeping with every student there. I was not there at the time, thank g-d, it happened a year or two before I got there, and thank g-d the rosh yeshiva found out before they got particularly far and got them out (although I would wish he would have been kinder, instead of throwing them out unrobed, or at least that is what I'm told happened. he threw their clothes out after them).

These things happen, there are plenty of yeshiva kids who do very bad things, I've seen it and heard from people who participated, although not participated my self (thank g-d).

SephardiLady said...

Jameel-Not that I know of. Does "Paamonim" have an English website?

Tamiri said...

Read about a new approach to chessed, Paamonim:

ora said...

mlevin: I never said those things don't happen in yeshivot. Please don't put words in my mouth.

However, I sincerely doubt that the problems I described are as widespread in the yeshiva world as they are in public school. One religious girl who had a baby is not the same as over 10% of the high school class graduating with babies (not counting those who dropped out b/c of their babies). It is not the same as girls having babies beginning at age 13. One girl committing suicide because of drugs is not the same as drugs being openly sold in class. Anecdotal "but I heard about religious girls who...." is no proof that the religious system has anywhere near the amount of problems that the PS system does. My school, by the way, was one of the better schools in the district.

Maybe I didn't make it clear enough, but I wasn't writing my last post (or this one), in defense of the yeshiva system, but only to reject your portrayal of the PS system. I can understand sending your kids to PS, especially a good one, instead of an expensive yeshiva, especially if it's a bad one. But I think parents should be allowed to make an informed decision, which includes being honest about what's going on in public schools and not dismissing horror stories (which are often backed up by statistics and police reports) as scare tactics.

IMO, it would be wonderful if religious schools could teach kids to be strong enough to withstand the next world war, but that's asking a bit much. If more parents would realize the physcial and spiritual dangers their children could face if there were to be major political changes, it would be wonderful, and Jewish education would probably be much better. But in the meantime, I don't think teachers would be allowed to teach the necessary skills even if they wanted to--parents would reject it as doomsday thinking that's scaring the kids. Especially in America, where in my experience a lot of Jews get angry if you insinuate that things might not always be wonderful (b/c it's seen as pressuring to make aliyah, I'm guessing).

Zach Kessin said...

Well not every public school is the same, some will be worse than others. I expect that in most decent areas the schools are pretty good. On the other hand I would expect that one would check a public school out just like you would check out any other school.

And for what its worth my mother who lives in Torrington CT has a great relationship to her local public school and hires kids out of it as normal practice. They have a graphics communications program that is first rate and she hires the best kids in it.

Anonymous said...

TwinsMommy- When you contacted the credit counselling agency, I hope you did your homework first. Some of them are businesses that cost you more than you need to spend. There are a few nationwide companies that do in person interviews and then help you consolidated.
Some other ideas-call the credit card companies and ask them to lower your APR because you are trying to get out of debt.
You may also want to try DA-Debtors Anonymous. I understand that they have a process that helps you tailor your own "recovery plan" from debt.
Hatzlocha hope it helps.
BTW, comments are from someone who bought a house on a projected income (kicking myself!) and I now want to switch jobs but am limited in what I can take. We are also finding ourselves struggling with an unmanagable amount on our credit card this month and appreciate reading all the comments above about keeping it under control in the future.

twinsmommy said...

11:39 am anonymous..... you were able to get a stated income loan? For some reason (we've never bought a house--- see, we're not even building equity!) I understood stated income loans as pertaining to looking at past tax returns to see what you've made rather than projecting future income to see what you may make. I'm self employed so we'd have to look at this when/if we ever buy a home... my husband's income by itself won't qualify us for diddley.

DA--- never heard of it--- I'll take a look at it, thank you!

The credit counseling service we used (and were rejected from) was the biggie. CCCS. They were extremely professional and kind and spent plenty of time with us.

mlevin said...


Ora – here’s the link to the US teen pregnancy rate. In 2002 75.4 out of 1000 teens got pregnant in US. That is 7.5%. Which is already less than 10% you were quoting, and if you take all whites it drops down to 65 out of 1000. Now, they define teen as everyone ages 15-19, but if you look further down where they break it to 15-17 then that pregnancy rate drops to 42.3 out of 1000 teens, unfortunately they do not have a break down by race for 15-17 statistic, but that is already less then half a percent. And those under 15 is only 8.6 out of 1000.

Since majority of American children are in public schools these percentages would reflect an average American public school. With a few exceptions, mostly in ghetto neighborhoods, my original point stands, that frum description of horrors in public schools is overly exaggerated.